Ἐγὼ δέ, οὗπερ ἀφίγμην ἕνεκα, τῷ Τειρεσίᾳ προσελθὼν ἱκέτευον αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα διηγησάμενος εἰπεῖν πρός με ποῖόν τινα ἡγεῖται τὸν ἄριστον βίον. ὁ δὲ γελάσας — ἔστι δὲ τυφλόν τι γερόντιον καὶ ὠχρὸν καὶ λεπτόφωνον — “ὦ τέκνον,” φησί, “τήν μὲν αἰτίαν οἶδά σοι τῆς ἀπορίας ὅτι παρὰ τῶν σοφῶν ἐγένετο οὐ ταὐτὰ γιγνωσκόντων ἑαυτοῖς· ἀτὰρ οὐ θέμις λέγειν πρὸς σέ· ἀπείρηται γὰρ ὑπὸ τοῦ Ῥαδαμάνθυος.” “μηδαμῶς,” ἔφην, “ὦ πατέριον, ἀλλ’ εἰπὲ καὶ μὴ περιίδῃς με σοῦ τυφλότερον περιιόντα ἐν τῷ βίῳ.” ὁ δὲ δή με ἀπαγαγὼν καὶ πολὺ τῶν ἄλλων ἀποσπάσας ἤρεμα προσκύψας πρὸς τὸ οὖς φησίν, “ὁ τῶν ἰδιωτῶν ἄριστος βίος, καὶ σωφρονέστερος παυσάμενος τοῦ μετεωρολογεῖν καὶ τέλη καὶ ἀρχὰς ἐπισκοπεῖν καὶ καταπτύσας τῶν σοφῶν τούτων συλλογισμῶν καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα λῆρον ἡγησάμενος τοῦτο μόνον ἐξ ἅπαντος θηράσῃ, ὅπως τὸ παρὸν εὖ θέμενος παραδράμῃς γελῶν τὰ πολλὰ καὶ περὶ μηδὲν ἐσπουδακώς.”
(Lucian, Menippos 21)
For my part, I did what I came to do. Going to Teiresias, I told him the whole story and besought him to tell me what sort of life he considered the best. He laughed (he is a blind little old gentleman, pale, with a piping voice) and said: “My son, I know the reason for your perplexity; it came from the wise men, who are not consistent with themselves. But it is not permissible to tell you, for Rhadamanthus has forbidden it.” “Don’t say that, gaffer,’ said I. “Tell me, and don’t allow me to go about in life blinder than you are.” So he took me aside, and after he had led me a good way apart from the others, he bent his head slightly toward my ear and said: “The life of the common sort is best, and you will act more wisely if you stop speculating about heavenly bodies and discussing final causes and first causes, spit your scorn at those clever syllogisms, and counting all that sort of thing nonsense, make it always your sole object to put the present to good use and to hasten on your way, laughing a great deal and taking nothing seriously.” (tr. Austin Morris Harmon)
Μάλιστα δὲ καὶ πρὸ τῶν πάντων ἐλεύθερος ἔστω τὴν γνώμην καὶ μήτε φοβείσθω μηδένα μήτε ἐλπιζέτω μηδέν, ἐπεὶ ὅμοιος ἔσται τοῖς φαύλοις δικασταῖς πρὸς χάριν ἢ πρὸς ἀπέχθειαν ἐπὶ μισθῷ δικάζουσιν. ἀλλὰ μὴ μελέτω αὐτῷ μήτε Φίλιππος ἐκκεκομμένος τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν ὑπὸ Ἀστέρος τοῦ Ἀμφιπολίτου τοῦ τοξότου ἐν Ὀλύνθῳ, ἀλλὰ τοιοῦτος οἷος ἦν δειχθήσεται· μήτ’ εἰ Ἀλέξανδρος ἀνιάσεται ἐπὶ τῇ Κλείτου σφαγῇ ὠμῶς ἐν τῷ συμποσίῳ γενομένῃ, εἰ σαφῶς ἀναγράφοιτο· οὐδὲ Κλέων αὐτὸν φοβήσει μέγα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ δυνάμενος καὶ κατέχων τὸ βῆμα, ὡς μὴ εἰπεῖν ὅτι ὀλέθριος καὶ μανικὸς ἄνθρωπος οὗτος ἦν· οὐδὲ ἡ σύμπασα πόλις τῶν Ἀθηναίων, ἢν τὰ ἐν Σικελίᾳ κακὰ ἱστορῇ καὶ τὴν Δημοσθένους λῆψιν καὶ τὴν Νικίου τελευτὴν καὶ ὡς ἐδίψων καὶ οἷον τὸ ὕδωρ ἔπινον καὶ ὡς ἐφονεύοντο πίνοντες οἱ πολλοί. ἡγήσεται γὰρ — ὅπερ δικαιότατον — ὑπ’ οὐδενὸς τῶν νοῦν ἐχόντων αὐτὸς ἕξειν τὴν αἰτίαν ἢν τὰ δυστυχῶς ἢ ἀνοήτως γεγενημένα ὡς ἐπράχθη διηγῆται· οὐ γὰρ ποιητὴς αὐτῶν, ἀλλὰ μηνυτὴς ἦν. ὥστε κἂν καταναυμαχῶνται τότε, οὐκ ἐκεῖνος ὁ καταδύων ἐστί, κἂν φεύγωσιν οὐκ ἐκεῖνος ὁ διώκων, ἐκτὸς εἰ μή, εὔξασθαι δέον, παρέλιπεν. ἐπεί τοί γε εἰ σιωπήσας αὐτὰ ἢ πρὸς τοὐναντίον εἰπὼν ἐπανορθώσασθαι ἐδύνατο, ῥᾷστον ἦν ἑνὶ καλάμῳ λεπτῷ τὸν Θουκυδίδην ἀνατρέψαι μὲν τὸ ἐν ταῖς Ἐπιπολαῖς παρατείχισμα, καταδῦσαι δὲ τὴν Ἑρμοκράτους τριήρη καὶ τὸν κατάρατον Γύλιππον διαπεῖραι μεταξὺ ἀποτειχίζοντα καὶ ἀποταφρεύοντα τὰς ὁδούς καὶ τέλος Συρακουσίους μὲν ἐς τὰς λιθοτομίας ἐμβαλεῖν, τοὺς δὲ Ἀθηναίους περιπλεῖν Σικελίαν καὶ Ἰταλίαν μετὰ τῶν πρώτων τοῦ Ἀλκιβιάδου ἐλπίδων. ἀλλ᾽, οἶμαι, τὰ μὲν πραχθέντα οὐδὲ Κλωθὼ ἂν ἔτι ἀνακλώσειεν οὐδὲ Ἄτροπος μετατρέψειε.
(Lucian, Pōs Dei Historian Sungraphein 38)
Above all and before everything else, let his* mind be free, let him fear no one and expect nothing, or else he will be like a bad judge who sells his verdict to curry favour or gratify hatred. He must not be concerned that Philip has had his eye put out by Aster of Amphipolis, the archer at Olynthus — he must show him exactly as he was. Nor must he mind if Alexander is going to be angry when he gives a clear account of the cruel murder of Clitus at the banquet. Neither will Cleon with his great power in the assembly and his mastery of the platform frighten him from saying that he was murderous and lunatic: nor even the entire city of the Athenians if he records the disaster of Sicily, the capture of Demosthenes, and the death of Nicias, the thirst of the troops, the sort of water they drank, and how most of them were slain as they drank it. For he will think quite rightly that no man of sense will blame him if he gives an account of unlucky or stupid actions — he has not been responsible for them, he has merely told the tale. So that if they are ever defeated in a sea-fight it is not he who sank them and if they run away it is not he who drives them on, unless he neglected to say a prayer when he ought. Surely if by ignoring them or reversing them he could set them right, it would have been very easy for Thucydides with one insubstantial pen to overturn the counter-wall at Epipolae, and sink the trireme of Hermocrates, to transfix that cursed man Gylippus in the act of blocking the roads with walls and ditches, and finally to throw the Syracusans into the stone-quarries while the Athenians sailed round Sicily and Italy as Alcibiades had first hoped. No, when what is done is done I fancy that even Clotho could not unspin their destiny or Atropus change their course.
* sc. the historian’s.
(tr. Austin Morris Harmon)
Ὥστε διὰ ταῦτα ὑγιαίνεις τε καὶ ἔρρωσαι τὸ σῶμα καὶ διακαρτερεῖς πρὸς τὸ κρύος· οἱ πόνοι γάρ σε παραθήγοντες οὐκ εὐκαταφρόνητον ἀνταγωνιστὴν ἀποφαίνουσι πρὸς τὰ δοκοῦντα τοῖς ἄλλοις ἄμαχα εἶναι. ἀμέλει οὐδέν σοι τῶν χαλεπῶν τούτων νοσημάτων πρόσεισιν, ἀλλ’ ἤν ποτε κοῦφος πυρετὸς ἐπιλάβηται, πρὸς ὀλίγον ὑπηρετήσας αὐτῷ ἀνεπήδησας εὐθὺς ἀποσεισάμενος τὴν ἄσην, ὁ δὲ φεύγει αὐτίκα φοβηθείς, ψυχροῦ σε ὁρῶν ἐμφορούμενον καὶ μακρὰ οἰμώζειν λέγοντα ταῖς ἰατρικαῖς περιόδοις· οἱ δὲ ὑπ’ ἀκρασίας ἄθλιοι τί τῶν κακῶν οὐκ ἔχουσι, ποδάγρας καὶ φθόας καὶ περιπλευμονίας καὶ ὑδέρους; αὗται γὰρ τῶν πολυτελῶν ἐκείνων δείπνων ἀπόγονοι. τοιγαροῦν οἱ μὲν αὐτῶν ὥσπερ ὁ Ἴκαρος ἐπὶ πολὺ ἄραντες αὑτοὺς καὶ πλησιάσαντες τῷ ἡλίῳ οὐκ εἰδότες ὅτι κηρῷ ἥρμοστο αὐτοῖς ἡ πτέρωσις, μέγαν ἐνίοτε τὸν πάταγον ἐποίησαν ἐπὶ κεφαλὴν ἐς πέλαγος ἐπεσόντες· ὅσοι δὲ κατὰ τὸν Δαίδαλον μὴ πάνυ μετέωρα μηδὲ ὑψηλὰ ἐφρόνησαν ἀλλὰ πρόσγεια, ὡς νοτίζεσθαι ἐνίοτε τῇ ἅλμῃ τὸν κηρόν, ὡς τὸ πολὺ οὗτοι ἀσφαλῶς διέπτησαν.
(Lucian, Oneiros ē Alektruōn) 23)
So in consequence of all this you are sound and strong in body and can stand the cold, for your hardships have trained you fine and made you no mean fighter against adverse conditions that seem to the rest of the world irresistible. No chance that one of their severe illnesses will come near you: on the contrary, if ever you get a light fever, after humouring it a little while you jump out of bed at once, shaking off your discomfort, and the fever in terror takes flight immediately on seeing that you drink cold water and have no use for doctors’ visits. But the rich, unhappy that they are – what ills are they not subject to through intemperance? Gout and consumption and pneumonia and dropsy are the consequences of those splendid dinners. In brief, some of them who like Icarus fly high and draw near the sun without knowing that their wings are fitted on with wax, now and then make a great splash by falling head-first into the sea, while of those who, copying Daedalus, have not let their ambitions soar high in the air but have kept them close to earth so that the wax is occasionally wet with spray, the most part reach their journey’s end in safety. (tr. Austin Morris Harmon)
Ἔοικε δὲ ἀρχὴ κακῶν μειζόνων γίνεσθαι πολλάκις ἡ πρὸς τὸ βέλτιον μεταβολή· καὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς δύο μόνας ἡμέρας ἐν εὐδίᾳ πλεύσαντες, τῆς τρίτης ὑποφαινούσης πρὸς ἀνίσχοντα τὸν ἥλιον ἄφνω ὁρῶμεν θηρία καὶ κήτη πολλὰ μὲν καὶ ἄλλα, ἓν δὲ μέγιστον ἁπάντων ὅσον σταδίων χιλίων καὶ πεντακοσίων τὸ μέγεθος· ἐπῄει δὲ κεχηνὸς καὶ πρὸ πολλοῦ ταράττον τὴν θάλατταν ἀφρῷ τε περικλυζόμενον καὶ τοὺς ὀδόντας ἐκφαῖνον πολὺ τῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν φαλλῶν ὑψηλοτέρους, ὀξεῖς δὲ πάντας ὥσπερ σκόλοπας καὶ λευκοὺς ὥσπερ ἐλεφαντίνους. ἡμεῖς μὲν οὖν τὸ ὕστατον ἀλλήλους προσειπόντες καὶ περιβαλόντες ἐμένομεν· τὸ δὲ ἤδη παρῆν καὶ ἀναρροφῆσαν ἡμᾶς αὐτῇ νηῒ κατέπιεν. οὐ μέντοι ἔφθη συναράξαι τοῖς ὀδοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ διὰ τῶν ἀραιωμάτων ἡ ναῦς ἐς τὸ ἔσω διεξέπεσεν.
(Lucian, Alēthē Diēgēmata 1.30)
It would seem, however, that a change for the better often proves a prelude to greater ills. We had sailed just two days in fair weather and the third day was breaking when toward sunrise we suddenly saw a number of sea-monsters, whales. One among them, the largest of all, was fully one hundred and fifty miles long. He came at us with open mouth, dashing up the sea far in advance, foam-washed, showing teeth much larger than the emblems of Dionysus in our country, and all sharp as calthrops and white as ivory. We said good-bye to one another, embraced, and waited. He was there in an instant, and with a gulp swallowed us down, ship and all. He just missed crushing us with his teeth, but the boat slipped through the gaps between them into the interior. (tr. Austin Morris Harmon)
Οὕτω δὲ ἰσχυρά ἐστιν*, ὥσθ’ ὁπόταν τι δάκνῃ, τιτρώσκει οὐκ ἀνθρώπου δέρμα μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ βοὸς καὶ ἵππου, καὶ ἐλέφαντα λυπεῖ ἐς τὰς ῥυτίδας αὐτοῦ παρεισδυομένη καὶ τῇ αὑτῆς προνομαίᾳ κατὰ λόγον τοῦ μεγέθους ἀμύσσουσα. μίξεως δὲ καὶ ἀφροδισίων καὶ γάμων πολλὴ αὐταῖς ἡ ἐλευθερία, καὶ ὁ ἄρρην οὐ κατὰ τοὺς ἀλεκτρυόνας ἐπιβὰς εὐθὺς ἀπεπήδησεν, ἀλλ’ ἐποχεῖται τῇ θηλείᾳ ἐπὶ πολύ, κἀκείνη φέρει τὸν νυμφίον, καὶ συμπέτονται τὴν ἐναέριον ἐκείνην μῖξιν τῇ πτήσει μὴ διαφθείρουσαι. ἀποτμηθεῖσα δὲ τὴν κεφαλὴν μυῖα ἐπὶ πολὺ ζῇ τῷ σώματι καὶ ἔμπνους ἐστίν.
* sc. ἡ μυῖα
(Lucian, Muias Enkōmion 6)
So strong is the fly that when she bites she wounds the skin of the ox and the horse as well as that of man. She even torments the elephant by entering his wrinkles and lancing him with her proboscis as far as its length allows. In mating, love, and marriage they are very free and easy. The male is not on and off again in a moment, like the cock; he covers the female a long time. She carries her spouse, and they take wing together, mating uninterruptedly in the air, as everyone knows. A fly with her head cut off keeps alive a long time with the rest of her body, and still retains the breath of life. (tr. Austin Morris Harmon)